UK pub operators report losses, job cuts as lockdown pain builds

© Reuters. Customers are seen at a table outside The Island Queen pub in London

(Reuters) – British pub operators Mitchells & Butlers (LON:) and Fuller, Smith & Turner posted financial losses on Thursday and said they had cut around 2,000 jobs as the hospitality sector reels from the past month’s re-tightening of COVID-19 restrictions.

The larger of the two, M&B, which owns All Bar One, Harvester and Browns, said it had cut 1,300 roles. Fuller’s said its total number of employees had been reduced by 20%, translating to around 990 job losses.

M&B reported an adjusted pretax loss of 32 million pounds for the year ended Sept. 26 and Fuller’s a first-half loss of 22.2 million pounds.

Pubs, restaurants and hotels have been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with social distancing measures and curfews hitting capacity even when establishments have not been forced to shut altogether by lockdowns.

The current lockdown in England started on Nov. 5 and is set to end on Dec. 2, but tough restrictions are expected to continue in many areas, and pubs and restaurants in the toughest third tier will only be allowed to reopen for takeaways.

With 1.56 billion pounds in net debt as of Sept. 26, Mitchells & Butlers in June had agreed to revised financing arrangements with its main creditors to bolster its available reserves after avoiding a debt default in April.

M&B employs about 44,000 people in about 1,700 pubs across the UK, while Fuller’s employed 4,957 according to its latest annual report.

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